Degenerate Art 2.0~

Putting That Art History Minor To Task…

New art always gets a bad rep.

Whether it’s the Dada nonsense of Duchamp (i.e. his lovely Fountain) or the Neo-Dada digitized nonsense embodied in some works of ELit such as in Jason Nelson’s This is How You Will Die, there will be critics and they will be harsh.

Digital art is the newest on the scene and so I believe that’s part of why there is so much skepticism surrounding it. Some people think it is inherently less because of its digital assistance. There’s something less real about it as if anything at all is really real. Also, I’ve noticed there’s this perception that it takes less skill to create digital work which somehow translates to less meaning and less thoughtfulness. As if one couldn’t possibly imbue a work made through a digital medium with even a modicum of meaning that oil on canvas can. These people have obviously never had to code a thing a day in their lives or never placed something on the WRONG layer in Photoshop >.< There’s this traditional idea of toil and suffering for one’s art, blood and sweat, that isn’t realized the same way in the creation of digital art that establishes this disconnect.

That said, from the tone of Tuesday’s night’s twitter chat, it seems attitudes are in the process of shifting. Most people, myself included, have not only experienced digital art and found something worthwhile in it but have contributed to its proliferation and propagation–We’ve spread it. We’ve created it. We appreciate it.

At least, in some form.

Many of us have made memes or gifs or have learned how to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Microsoft Paint was “old hat” to some. DeviantArt (which makes me think of Degenerate Art and of how reclaiming language can have a profound and powerful affect) had a vocal advocate, too. It was very clear that, at least among our cohort, digital art isn’t the new Degenerate Art.

It’s our art.

We were sympathetic towards the issues of surrounding digital art. For example, it’s very easy to re-post art online without providing proper attribution to artists. To me, this contributes to that problem of digital art being perceived as cheaper because the work that goes into creating it is seen as less. This leads to a trickle-down devaluation of the medium in that it makes people unwilling to pay a fair commission price for digital work due to the perception that because it is so widely available, it must be a simple task to create. Which is simply not true.

Of course, questions of accessibility also arise. Most of us, perhaps because of the above situation, don’t see digital art as a commodity so much as we do an amenity of the internet. It’s decorative or it’s fun or funny, entertaining. And because it’s online and not in a museum, we feel more entitled to it, maybe? I felt an undercurrent of this feeling in our Twitter chat. I don’t think money came up at all which says a lot about how we think of digital art and work that exists in digital spaces to me.

And, while I’m all for allowing people to have access to beautiful and meaningful works, regardless of their economic status, sex, race, creed, etc., I don’t think the rampant, creditless re-posting and exploitation or artists’ work is a fair system. More, it pushes artists towards having to fund themselves through other means and on online platforms, that means ads~

Ultimately, the system devalues what it should be promoting.

Discourages it.

Which is so unfortunate because I do believe there is a lot of potential to create beauty and meaning and even beautiful, meaningless nonsense through digital means.

Finding Meaning

Writing is my art.

As evidenced by my class’s estimation of their own skills, I’d say I’m not alone in that thinking. Which makes sense since most if not all of us are either Writing Studies majors or teachers whose content area is Writing. What makes even more sense is our own estimation of what skills of ours are underdeveloped.

What was interesting to me, though, was how many of us counted photography among our skills. This, I believe, relates to double-edged word: accessibility–all of us have phones that double as cameras now. We have ample opportunity to exercise this skill.

We had opportunities to exercise our photography skills this week.

First: A Photo Safari. 7 challenges/prompts. 15 minutes to respond with photos to as many of the prompts as possible. 1 freezing cold, Northeastern USA day and 1 dreadfully dull university campus. What could go wrong???

Tbh, nothing much.

In fact, I think we all showed off our photo-taking skills rather well. For myself, I was surprised at how many pictures I was able to capture–6 out of 7.

My favourites have to be these (in response to prompts 2, 3, & 7):

This is probably my favourite photo overall. I like how my shadow is replicated in the glass and how it is superimposed over the mask. If I had the means, I would’ve liked to have more of the “face part” of my shadow overlaying the mask. I think it would’ve created a more complex dissonance. What is my true face, you know?

I stand by my decision to put a black & white filter on the photo. It really emphasizes the shadowy parts of this composition and, to me, adds a sense of mystery or of foreboding.

#Aesthetic

(My responses to prompts 1, 4, 5)

As you can tell, I’m kind of a filter junkie. But, I think my filter choices resonate with the content of my photos. The filters emphasize a tone or help create a feeling. Of course, it’s always nice to incorporate those elements “naturally” and in the original composition if possible. But if you can’t, it’s nice to still have the opportunity to do it. Good example of access.

If memes and gifs are the sprinkles of the internet then filters are the sprinkles of photography~

Another opportunity we had to explore and build-upon our photography know-how was an “oldie-but-a-goodie” to me: 5 Card Flickr Roulette Story. (We accessed this activity through the new Make Bank portal.)

Essentially, you pick 5 photos–provided through Flickr–at random and try to compose a story from them. It’s a different way of looking at photography than in the first activity but, to me, it’s possibly the most important aspect of the art–creating story, narrative. Instilling meaning.

I took a more poetic route with my work.

-Oldie Poem:


Five Card Story: Lucid Dreaming

a Networked Narratives story created by helterskelliter


flickr photo by Dogtrax


flickr photo by cogdogblog


flickr photo by GMulligan


flickr photo by cogdogblog


flickr photo by Dogtrax

Hope in shades of oil-slick. Mother’s hands coming down to meet each other. To meet me.

A bell tolls. Soft, gentle, light creeps. The pulse reverberates. A chime. A toll. Light fades.

I am porcelain surrounded by sycamore.

Blood red stretched taut. Plastic wrap ripe to snap. Hues threadbare.

On the porch, a lamp burns low. Brighter for the dark.


-Newbie Poem:


Five Card Story: What A Mirror Does

a Five Card Flickr story created by helterskelliter


flickr photo by bionicteaching


flickr photo by bionicteaching


flickr photo by bionicteaching


flickr photo by whistlepunch


flickr photo by bionicteaching

Iron grates kissing concrete

and fences without teeth, flyers

at your feet scream,”hear

me!” and the clear skies

seem like graffiti

reflection. Mirroring

of being, half shuttered

half dreaming~


***Title for the 2nd work inspired by a line from Kendrick Lamar’s “XXX.

I explained it more in my response on Make Bank but I believe images are moments and poetry is the art we extract from moments. More, poetry is how we refine experience and distill it into its most essential, truthful, and deeply human parts. We are all made up of experiences, after all. Don’t want to go off an abstract tangent though~

Exercises like these provide opportunities for us to explore the intersection between different medias and mediums as well as provide opportunities to explore and expound upon our own creativity. In the process, we learn new ways to express ourselves and to convey meaning. More, these activities highlight how story is not exclusive to writing. It can be visual. It can be digital. And, it can still have impact.

That’s really important.

Not Finding Meaning

All this said, there was an interesting point raised in the Twitter chat around digital art and meaning. For many, digital art is an outlet like any other creative venture. It’s something they do to relax or to think or to spend quality time with the self. It is not seen an act with any particular purpose or meaning assigned to it, in that way.

There was some push-back to this idea–that digital art could be inherently meaningless.

But, to me, this makes sense??? Maybe it’s because I lean towards the existential side of nihilism, but I believe there is no intrinsic meaning in anything. We give things meaning. We make meaning. We decide meaning. The things that have meaning to me reflect decisions I have made about their value. Don’t want to go off on a nihilistic tangent either though~ Art isn’t an exception.

Anyway, while I strongly believe there can be meaning in digital art and that it can be a powerful tool to convey meaning, that doesn’t mean it has to mean anything. I mean, most Dada artists and some Surrealists rejected any attempt to impose meaning on their work and some of those works are still highly regarded today. The Futurists were totally opposed to art being anything other than embodiment of mechanical and industrial concepts. De Stijl artists (like Piet Mondrian with his infamous squares) were also interested in removing the, well, personal expression from art. (Mondrian’s compositions of squares do strinkigly resemble the clean lines of skyscrapers and of city infrastructure. #themoreyouknow~) Photography was originally used as just a cataloging tool.

The point is digital art shouldn’t have to have an inherent meaning either to be important. That’s a really high standard as well as an arbitrary one. Especially if meaning is what we make it and nothing more.

Preservation

An element to digital art that I always find interesting and that we touched upon a little in class tonight is that of preservation or conservation. With how quickly tech is advancing, how do we preserve the work created during such a transitional period? More, should we be blithely preserving all digital work or should we be more discerning? Also, should older works of digital art, such as some ELit pieces, be “updated” if they were made using now-obsolete means in order to preserve their original accessibility?

These kinds of questions fascinate me.

They arise in the traditional art world, as well. For example, Dieter Roth (sometimes called Dieter Rot) was an artist who worked in foodstuffs. He made sausages out of books (Literaturwurst) and other things in imitation of food before he began actually making paintings with yogurt and these famous busts out of chocolate. He even had an entire gallery exhibition that was just suitcases sitting in the gallery, filled with cheese. (It did not last long.)

Anyway, questions arise about preservation all the time with these kinds of works–is it going against the intent of the work and of the artist to preserve these pieces? A part of the art is that it was not made to last. It wouldn’t have been made out of food otherwise. Roth once said works of art, “should change like man himself, grow old and die.”

Many want to preserve art for posterity. It is a part of the human story and so it has value in that way. Some argue art is timeless as well and so should be preserved, for future experiences of it.

But, that’s what’s going on with the traditional side of art. What about the digital side?

This week in class, we explored The Wayback Machine which is an archive of the internet. It preserves moments in time, what pages or sites looked like, well, way back. Along with Vanessa and Hailey, I explored the history of etoy which seems to be a work of ELit that was established in the 90s and is based on a real legal situation the creators had that they re-imagined as a kind of war. To be honest, it seemed complicated and extremely meta. The current website seems to imply that etoy is a kind of commentary on current models of corporate structures??? The jobs page is a real delight to read–corporate jargon mixed with actual nonsense. Overall, it’s very devoted piece of ELit.

Anyway, again, it’s interesting to see how people are going about preserving digital art and work. I know there’s also the ELit Libraries which are curated collections of ELiterature pieces. And, there’s I ❤ EPoetry as well created by Leonardo Flores (@Leornardo_UPRM). These are just some of the ways people are trying to preserve digital art and work. After all, there are no museums for this stuff, right?

It’ll be interesting to see if that changes or to see what initiatives if any are put in place to preserve digital work. And, how that may affect access.

Final Cut

I guess I’m left wondering about art and accessibility.

Particularly, I’m concerned about the new digital element and how it affects the intersection of art and accessibility. Obviously, it complicates some things. But, ultimately, I feel it offers more opportunities than it does problems. I think old ideas of what art should be and about what stories are detract from everything else working in a digital medium provides creators and innovators. Questions about preservation are relevant but about whether or not digital art is art??? No. Get out of here. Sounds elitist and woefully uniformed.

And, that’s how I feel.

If you feel differently, I’m all kinds of interested in why~

****

Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

This week’s star~

Hypothes.is

Vanessa’s Post about etoy (one of the weirdest, meta ELit pieces either Hailey or I have come across~ Seriously, researching this project was a trip)

Goodies

*Stumbled across this article on the class site and I had to give my recommendation. It discusses some alternatives in the works to the internet. While these alternative options definitely appeal to my desire for privacy–which ties into safety, as this article made me realize–I found myself conflicted about what instituting some of these sites in practice would mean. It rose objections for me. More, it made me aware of what putting one of these alternative site that doesn’t store information centrally would mean. Highly recommend reading.

*An essay I wrote on nihilism and Neo-Dadaism in Jason Nelson’s This Is How You Will Die if you’re interested. Highly recommended checking out the actual piece, too.

*Speaking of poetry, a book I’ve been reading and would recommend is Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim. It explores depression and loss in a very human way. It’s quickly become a friend~

*One Dada manifesto in case you’re curious. (By Tzara, typically credited as a founder of Dada)

*A fun and interesting video that explores 2 different kinds of nihilism–existential and cosmic–through a philosophical exploration of 2 of my favourite animated shows: Rick & Morty and Bojack Horseman. Both fun and educational ^.^

*On Art: Meet my friend Drac~

(nickel sheet metal, nickel wire, silver solder, black acrylic, & black plastic thread)

*For those who don’t know, I make art out of metal as well as words. Drac is one of my latest projects and one of my biggest. I’m also no sure if he has any inherent meaning other than I like bats and the moon~ He is going to be in a student show coming up. Yay~

~Till Next Time~

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5 Comments

  1. I was intrigued to read your take knowing that you make art with your own hands. The ease of distribution of art, the opportunity for more people to appreciate (love/hate/just see) via digital always has the double edge sword- we cannot have that and also full control of where it goes and what people do with it.

    Artists try all kinds of tricks and methods to control. YES BLOCKCHAIN WILL SAVE THE DAY. It is not possible, yet in many ways we want to think of digital art having the properties of tangible art. For some powerful insight, I suggest the journey of Jonathan Worth, a professional photographer who learned to see his craft and business in digital as quite different; an interview I did with him http://stories.cogdogblog.com/open-photographer/

    I am so enjoying the depth and breadth you are showing here in sharing your thinking and your creativity; I am excited seeing 5 card flickr represented in poetic form.

    Like

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